ONE HUNDRED YEARS WITH THE SECOND CAVALRY
By Joseph I. Lambert, Major, Second Cavalry
Copyright 1939 Commanding Officer, Second Cavalry, Fort Riley, Kansas
Capper Printing Company, Inc.
The cavalry corps during June succeeded in penetrating the enemy screen and at the same time prevented Lee from finding out what the Army of the Potomac was doing. The Federal cavalry had proved its ability to cope with the Southern troopers, mounted or dismounted.
Stuart started on June 24, 1863, with three brigades of cavalry, to move around the Union Army in order to cut their line of communication and to threaten the capitol. He soon captured a wagon train eight miles long and committed other depredations. Kilpatrick’s cavalry division, which had recently been added to the cavalry corps, was sent to intercept Stuart. The First Cavalry Division under Buford was ordered to cover the left of the main army and watch the enemy in the direction of Hagerstown. Gregg’s cavalry division was located on the Baltimore pike covering the right of the army. After several encounters with Kilpatrick’s division, Stuart finally eluded him and reached Gettysburg after the battle began.
On the afternoon of June 30, 1863, Buford’s division reached Gettysburg as the enemy entered the town. Realizing the importance of this place on account of the road net and the commanding ground, he drove the enemy back toward Cashtown. Through untiring efforts of patrols, he learned that Hill’s corps of the Confederate army was at that place. Then he decided to hold the ground until Reynold’s corps, encamped five miles south, could reach the place. To Buford, an old Second Cavalryman, must go the credit for selecting Gettysburg as a battlefield. On the morning of July 1, the First Cavalry Division fought desperately against ever-increasing numbers of Confederates and finally moved the line of battle back about 200 yards. Upon the arrival of Reynold’s First Corps, they continued to fight dismounted during the day. That night they bivouacked on the battlefield with pickets extended to Fairfield. On the evening of July 2, after a brisk fight with Confederate sharpshooters, the cavalry corps was relieved by the Third Corps and ordered to Westminster to guard the supply trains.
The regular brigade of Buford’s division, of which the Second Cavalry formed a part, was detached at this time and picketed toward the left and left front of the army. In doing this it reached Emmittsburg on July 2. The next morning it moved to the right of the Gettysburg road and formed part of the Union left near Round Top Mountain. Soon after entering the line, the Second Cavalry was checked by a heavy fire from the enemy, who was stationed behind a stone wall. The artillery assisted in displacing the Rebels but they took up a position to the rear, and it was necessary for our regiment to drive them out again and again. Advancing along the Gettysburg road, the brigade of dismounted skirmishers caused the Confederates under law to detach part of his line in order to protect his flank and rear.
On the morning of July 4, General Lee’s army was in full retreat, followed by the Union cavalry in hot pursuit. The First Cavalry Division was joined by the regular brigade under Merritt at Frederick on July 5. From here it moved to Hagerstown, where it bivouacked on that night. Following the Confederate army it marched to Williamsport, Maryland, and attacked their train, which was crossing the Potomac. The Confederate defense stiffened after their pickets were driven in. Gamble’s brigade of the division punished the enemy severely but was not able to destroy very much of the trains on account of the large force guarding them.